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Why do some people have a blue string among their tzitzit fringes?

Why do some people have a blue string among their tzitzit fringes?

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We read in the Torah:1 “Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes (tzitzit) on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and that they shall affix a thread of techelet on the fringe of each corner.”

The verse contains two commandments. One is to affix (white) fringes on the corners of a four-cornered garment, and the other is to add a thread of techelet to each corner. These two commandments are independent of each other. When techelet is available, we are enjoined to add a techelet fringe to the tzitzit; when unavailable, we fulfill the mitzvah with plain white fringes.

Techelet is wool dyed with blood extracted from a sea animal called the chilazon.

So why is it not so common today to have a techelet fringe on the tallit or tzitzit? At a certain point in history, approximately 1000 years ago, the chilazon, which was always hard to come by—to the extent that the Talmud2 tells us that it surfaced only once every seventy years—became unavailable altogether. After a while, its exact identity became unknown.

There have been many who have tried to rediscover the identity of the chilazon. Most notable among them were the Radziner rebbe, Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner (1839–1891), and Israeli Chief Rabbi Y. I. Herzog (1888–1959).

Rabbi Leiner maintained that the cuttlefish was the lost chilazon, and proceeded to produce and distribute dye produced from this fish.

Recently, the marine snail Murex trunculus has been identified as possibly being the elusive chilazon, and many use its dye.

Most communities, however, view the findings of these groups as uncertain, and therefore continue to wear only white fringes, awaiting the coming of Moshiach, when Elijah himself will guide us in uncovering the identity of the chilazon.

Yours truly,
Rabbi Menachem Posner

FOOTNOTES
1.

Numbers 15:38.

2.

Talmud, Menachot 44a.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org. He lives with his family in Montreal, QC.
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Discussion (18)
July 24, 2013
Kosher
I read somewhere the process of getting the blue from the snail is done while it is alive, so this renders it kosher. I can't remember where I read it though.
Charlayne
NC
February 20, 2013
To Gershon
Hmmm. I think you have an interesting point regarding the donkey...don't think we chopped off his head though. As I understand it, the donkey is the only unkosher animal to have kedusha, holiness, and thus, the first born had to be redeemed. That means a lamb gets sacrificed. If the donkey is not redeemed, then someone breaks his neck. Ouch! God, do You really want us to do that? That aside...
The rumor is the donkey gets kedusha status for helping us get out of town, that is, Egypt. And then shlepping all our supplies for 40 years in the desert without complaint, unlike our ancestors that kvetched all the time.
As far as other dyes in the Temple coming from unkosher sources, well, it doesn't say so in the Torah as far as I know.
If that was passed down in the Oral Law, well, one of the hazards of playing telephone as kids, the message gets messed up. And that's how the poor unkosher snail got crushed in all this.
Marty
Denver
February 20, 2013
To Marty
I think that some of the other dyes used for the Temple were also made of unkosher sources. Think also of the firstborn donkey whose head was to be chopped off.
Gershon
KS
February 19, 2013
sky blue works
Are there any other times in the Tanach or the Talmud where we're required to use something from an unkosher animal? If not, then we've probably been wrong using snails all along.
I think God is scratching His head wondering why all the meshugas, "I just thought if you had a blue thread you'll remember the commandments comes from heaven, and that I am watching what you do."
So, Nu, any plant or artificial dye will do.
Marty
Denver
February 19, 2013
techelet: blue tests
Rabbi Yisroel Lipschutz: tests in the Talmud for the blue dye? What are these tests and what is the source of the source in the Talmud?
Ed Friedman
Silver Spring MD
January 7, 2013
Techeles in Tzitzis....
Marty writes: Rabbi Yisroel Lipschutz, writes in his Kupat HaRochlim (found in his introduction to Seder Moed) that there is no specific requirement to use the extract of the Chilazon. Any blue dye that will stand up to the chemical tests outlined in the Talmud may be used. .
Thank you Marty for sharing this. If Rabbi Lipchutz is correct, [and I have been asking the same question for years] that we may use any artificial dye [that matches the techeles of the Chilazon and I'm sure we can manufacture this colour with the technology of today, why can't we use it in our Tziitzith. Of course, You need a high powered microscope to examine it beyond the physical seeing using a 20 - 20 vision with our eyes.
It all boils down to Toras Hashem and Toras Ha-adam [the many stringencies invented by man.] I heard that some Rabbis are afraid to go against their teachers and state the truth because of what their Rebbe says.
David Aharon Lindzon
Toronto, Ontario Canada
November 17, 2012
Plant dye has the green light
It seems that the blue dye had to be made from the Chilazon; probably it was part of the oral tradition given to Moses on Sinai. However, Rabbi Yisroel Lipschutz, author of the Tiferet Yisroel commentary on the Mishnah, writes in his Kupat HaRochlim (found in his introduction to Seder Moed) that there is no specific requirement to use the extract of the Chilazon. Any blue dye that will stand up to the chemical tests outlined in the Talmud may be used. (This matter was debated between the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchok HaLevi Herzog, and Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tuckchinsky. Their discussion can be found in Rabbi Tuckchinsky's work Ir HaKodesh V'HaMikdosh, vol. V, pp.37-60.) I guess Rabbi Lipschutz doesn't have any sway in this matter? If he does, it sounds like we can leave the snails alone. They're not even kosher anyway.
Marty
November 7, 2012
The Blue Thread
Since it is a commandment of Hashem to wear the blue thread the fringes should have it. One difficulty though is what shade of blue. I have seen two
shades of blue worn on different tallitot. A dark blue and / or light blue.
Shira Levin
Minneapolis
November 7, 2012
why not
i also want to know-why not wear it, maybe the man is fulfilling a biblical commandment-can't hurt?
Anonymous
November 7, 2012
Reversing the Question
Why do many tallit-wearers not have a blue thread, but instead are satisfied with fringes and tallet cloth being completely white?
David Chester
Petach Tikva
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